Today my oldest, Aleyah, placed first in her school’s 6th grade science fair with her research paper. She chose to research how an athlete should prepare and recover from exercise. I hope you find her report useful and helpful.
Improving Your Sports Performance
by Aleyah Terry
Exercise is vital and essential to health. It can also be demanding on your body, so you will need to care for your body before and after your sporting event. By feeding it nutritious and healthy food, by doing additional exercises and practices over and above your regularly scheduled practices, and having the right mindset before and after these events, you can feel and be better.
Before your sports practice is the ideal time to fuel your body. If you have a performance, game, competition, or meet the next day, you should eat a hearty dinner. One example of such a meal is grilled chicken breast with BBQ sauce, baked potato, green beans, and organic 2% milk or water. Other combinations could include a mix of lean proteins, carbohydrates and fats from foods and drinks such as these: organic 2% milk, peanut butter, honey, lettuce, roasted chicken breast, tomatoes, mayonnaise-based salad dressing, low-fat vinaigrette dressing, carrots and salmon.
For breakfast you can eat a bowl of cereal with organic milk, a banana, yogurt with fruit, and 100% fruit juice. For a morning snack, some suggestions are a granola bar, fruit, and water. Lunch can include a turkey sandwich with lettuce and tomato, pretzels, carrot sticks, drinkable yogurt, and water. Before your event, eat 30 minutes to one hour before you start. You can eat dry cereal, grapes, cottage cheese, one or two eggs, milk, and water.
Drink extra water the day before, have two to three glasses before bed and one to three glasses five to ten minutes before the event. It is also important to remember to re-hydrate after the event! For most people, water is all they need to stay hydrated. However, for some people it is not enough. Sports drinks are recommended for events lasting longer than one hour to help replace electrolytes that are lost through sweating. This allows your muscles to get back the carbohydrates they need to continue working hard. Some sports drinks that are recommended by the website Best Products are Reliant Recovery Water, BodyArmor SuperDrink, Zico Pure Premium Coconut Water, and Nature’s Best Isopure Zero Carb Protein Drink. Choose a sports drink wisely. They are often high in calories from added sugar and may contain high levels of sodium. Some alternatives to a sugary sports drink are coconut water, aloe water, cactus water, Himalayan salt with a bit of honey or maple syrup added to your water, and watermelon water.
If you have an early morning sporting event, have a high carbohydrate dinner and drink extra water. The morning of the event, eat about a two hundred calorie meal like yogurt and a banana and also drink more water. If you have a mid-morning event, eat a similar dinner plan as just mentioned. Have a familiar breakfast by 7am to prevent a stomach ache. If you have a mid-afternoon event eat a high carbohydrate breakfast and a light lunch, or combine them into a big brunch. Make sure to have a high carbohydrate dinner the night before, drink extra water the day before and extra on the event day too. If you have an all-day event, you will need some rest so exercise just lightly two days before the event. Rest completely the day before and eat a high carbohydrate breakfast, lunch, and dinner with extra fluids. Eat a breakfast you enjoy and is light on the day of the event, snack every one and a half to two hours, eat lunch if you can, and drink fluids before you feel thirsty.
The biggest secret to playing your best at a competitive sports event is to keep calm and composed and keep your focus on you, your job, and your play. Then be sure to warm-up before that event. If you do not do this, you are running the risk of getting injured. A bowl of fruit and water can get you refreshed before a game. A good pre-event meal contains high carbohydrates, moderate amounts of protein, small amounts of fat, and plenty of fluids. “Practice” your pre-game snacks and meals. Experiment with different foods, drinks, and timing to find what works best for you.
After your activity there is a couple of things you can do to help improve your performance. The first is stretching. There two type of stretching: dynamic and static. Dynamic stretching is a form of stretching that utilizes movement to warm up the body before practice which helps the body recover and release lactic acid from the practice before. The next stretch is static stretching which is done when the body is at rest. This type of stretching is a form of cooling down because it elongates the muscles. So do dynamic stretching in order to warm up the body and do static stretching after to cool down the muscles.
Some athletes nap too long, or do not nap at all. Those things are not healthy for you. The best thing to do is to fit in a 25 minute to one hour power nap before practice. If you nap too long it will not be beneficial to you. Sleep is essential to recovery. While you sleep, human growth hormones are released, repairing your muscles and tissues. When you are sleep deprived, you do not get the recovery that occurs during sleep.
No athlete likes to cool down after practice because they want to get home. But cooling down is almost the most important part of practice. It releases tension and gets your blood flowing through your body again, and it is a form of active recovery. Either stretch or do a modified version of your sport. Like if you ran a mile that day, run a 200 meters to cool down.
Most people don’t realize that within thirty minutes of practice, you should eat something to refuel your body. The most common is a protein drink, but you can also have snacks like greek yogurt or fruit.
When people think of massages, they think of spas. But, there are more reasons to get a massage than that. Sports massages help relieve tension in your body and help the blood flow more easily through the muscles. You can try to get a sports massage once a month, and if you do, you will feel the difference.
Ice baths are used after a long time of exercise. Not everyone loves ice baths, but they do love the benefits. These super-cold soaks help speed up recovery, alleviate muscle pain, stiffness, and soreness, and even repairs muscles. If you can, put a bucket of ice in your bathtub, run a cold bath, and lay in there for five to ten minutes. You can take a warm shower and wash up, then turn the water on cold and rinse the part or parts that are sore or you think will be sore. “The Journal of Science And Medicine in Sport” ran a test on runners to see how ice baths showed improvement. When the runners had taken ice baths between the runs, they were able to continue four minutes longer than the times they were not given cold baths, but with a longer recovery time.
Several sports use compression clothing to lower heart rate. It is made with high quality engineered elastic compression fabric to mold around the part of the body. Foam rolling is like a sports massage, but you can do it yourself for cheaper. Rolling over knots, or tight parts, that may have grown during the sport event, can get your blood flowing back to your body. There are some exercises you can do can eliminate sore muscles. If your hip flexors are sore and you have a foam roller, sit on the roller and put one knee on the other and turn towards that leg. For your quadrilaterals, lay on the roller with your stomach laying on it and roll till your quads get massaged.
Overall, there are several ways you can improve your sports performance. Whether using ice baths or fueling your body, you are allowing your body to prepare and recover from your favorite sport. By doing these extra steps, you are building up muscle and bringing vital minerals and nutrients to your body. Exercise is essential to health and using these ideas can improve your athletic ability and keep your body ready and healthy for physical activity.
Shack, Torri. “What to Eat Before and After a Workout.” Youtube. March 25, 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_xSbczPAFk (accessed January 5, 2017).
Swearingen, Danelle. “Eating Before Competition.” Central Washington University. http://www.cwu.edu/sports-nutrition/eating-competition (accessed October 30, 2016).
Watne, MS, RD, Laura. “How to Eat Before a Competition.” Children’s Hospital Colorado. https://www.childrenscolorado.org/conditions-and-advice/new-and-featured-articles/sports-nutrition/what-to-eat-before-playing-sports/ (accessed October 30, 2016).